Thomas Jefferson
Terence F. MacCarthy


Terry MacCarthy has been the Executive Director of the Federal Defender Program in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois for over forty years. He was selected for this position in 1966 by the judges of the United States District Court and the deans of the six Chicago law schools. The office is frequently mentioned as being one of the best defender offices in the country. In addition to his overall administrative responsibilities, Mr. MacCarthy continues to personally try cases and to train and assist his staff of twenty attorneys.

He received a B.A. in philosophy from St. Joseph's College in 1955, and a J.D. from DePaul Law School in 1960. He was a law clerk to former Chief Judge William J. Campbell of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. He also served for several years as an Illinois Special Assistant Attorney General, specializing in civil trials and appeals. Mr. MacCarthy has been active principally in the field of trial practice, in both criminal and civil matters. He has argued in the United States Supreme Court. His criminal experience is primarily in the federal courts where he has tried and appealed many cases, and worked with his staff attorneys in preparing and trying additional cases. MacCarthy is one of the nation’s most sought-after speakers at continuing legal education programs, having lectured in all 50 states and over a dozen foreign countries.

He has received numerous awards including special awards from both his undergraduate college and his law school. He received the University of Virginia Justice William Brennan Award, the Harrison Tweed Special Merit Award from the ABA and NLADA's Reginald Heber Smith Award. He has also received awards from, among other organizations, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, both the California and Illinois Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the ACLU, the National College of Criminal Defense, the Illinois State's Attorneys Association, the U.S. Army Trial Defense Services and the U.S.O. During the year 2000 he received the “Defender of the Century” from the Federal Defenders Association, the Inns of Court Professionalism Award from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and the Charles English Award from the ABA Criminal Justice Section. In 2002 he received the Laureate Award of the Illinois State Bar Association. In 2004 he received the Public Interest Award for Excellence from the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association and the United Stated District Court of Illinois. In 2006 he received the First Defender Award from First Defense Legal Aid.

A member of the ABA for over thirty years, MacCarthy has chaired the Criminal Justice Section and has served on its Council for over twenty years, seven as a Section representative in the House of Delegates. He served on the Board of Governors from 1997 to 2000.

Several Flyers for MacCarthy Speaking Programs are summarized below.

MacCarthy has been called “. . .America’s most popular and respected teacher of lawyers. . .” After conducting a national survey, the Aspen Law and Business Report name him one of the top four CLE speakers in the country. More specifically it described him as a “nuts and bolts rather than theory and concept” speaker.

The Prentice Hall Law & Business Report called him “. . .engaging, animated, roguish and unusually intelligent.”

An Inside Litigation profile said “. . .galvanic personal style. . .” was “. . .constitutionally incapable of boring anybody for long. . .” in that he combine(s) substance with an engaging style.” It also noted that legendary trial lawyer Roy Black admits to listening in his car to MacCarthy’s tapes – “. . . as much to laugh as to learn.”

In 1990 he, along with Mike Tigar, obtained an acquittal for Al Capone in a Litigation Sections retrial at the ABA Annual Meeting. Judge Prentice Marshall singled out MacCarthy’s cross-examination of the “snitch” as the highlight of the trial.

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers referred to him as the “. . .father of the criminal defense opening statement [who] has developed a cross-examination system taught and effectively used throughout the country.”

MacCarthy is on the permanent faculty of the National Criminal Defense College, the Western Trial Advocacy Institute, the University of Virginia Trial Advocacy Institute and the Northwestern Law School Short Course. He served on the initial faculty at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College.

He has lectured for the Federal Judicial Center and the Department of Justice. He has been a speaker for the State Bar Associations of Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

He has lectured to numerous other bar groups, at many law schools and is particularly proud of having been a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at University College Dublin.